The healing waters of Tel Aviv

Stella Carroll

Reporter:

Stella Carroll

The healing waters of Tel Aviv
Sometimes we need to question the validity of the laws which govern us.

Sometimes we need to question the validity of the laws which govern us.

Sometimes we have to fly in the face of those laws , follow our higher instincts and let our humanity shine through.

This is how it is for a group of Israeli women who risk jail to bring Palestinian women and children to Tel Aviv for a day’s outing at the sea. Their happiness at skipping through the ocean waves and playing in the sand is immeasurable.

The ongoing military occupation of the West Bank with its complicated permit system ensures that, although many Palestinians can see the ocean, they may never visit it. This prompted a group of Israeli women to organise trips for Palestinian women and children to enjoy the beach.

Some may say that this is a small act of defiance in the face of so much complicated politics, but it is perfect in its simple message. We rise above absurd edicts and follow a deeper wisdom.

But, this is also an act that could see the women jailed for up to two years. Writer, Ilana Hammerman told the Israeli newspaper Haeretz: “None of us are anarchists, yet we broke the law. That is a symbolic act.

“We don’t recognize the legality of the entry law into Israel, which allows every Israeli and every Jew to move freely throughout most of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, and denies this right to the Palestinians, to whom this land also belongs.”

There have been calls for Ms Hammerman to be charged with treason . While this is a serious act for the Israeli women, it is equally as fraught and dangerous for the Palestinians who also face jail sentences and heavy fines if caught.

Driving into the West Bank in the early morning, the women rendezvous at designated meeting places.

Headscarves (Hijabs) are removed to reveal western style clothing. Children s are silenced for the tense moment of passing through army checkpoints to the other side of the 80 meter wall which surrounds the West Bank. The excitement in the cars is palpable.

“ Some of the women want to see the sea, some the shops or the high-rises. One said she just wanted to breath.” explains Zisapel, who drove a family she had never met before .

“I was resistant to breaking the law. But I realised that civil action is the only way to go forward, that breaking an illegal law becomes legal. I just wanted to show the absurdity of this situation, of this law and what it does”

On the way, the children whisper eagerly about the sea and what it might feel like. Nothing prepares them for the freedom of running through the waves , for the smell of the ocean and for that special feeling of sand between their toes. Things which many of us take for granted. “It is so much more beautiful than I thought,” said one woman “It is more beautiful than on TV. The colour is amazing.”

These happy acts of kindness in the face of so much inequality and oppression should not be under-estimated.

They are not just about sharing a sunny day. They represent a refusal to be enemies and are among the first tentative steps toward mutual understanding and peace building.

Since the first hesitant outings a petition supporting the action of the women has been signed and despite the public admissions by some of those involved , no one has yet faced criminal charges.

In the coming warmer months, it is expected that many more West Bank families will enjoy a day at the sea. The sad thing remains that this is just one day among so many lived under oppressive military occupation.